Monday, July 27, 2015

Trace of Magic by Diana Pharaoh Francis

Title: Trace of Magic
Author: Diana Pharaoh Francis
Genre: Urban Fantasy
Series: Diamond City Magic #1

Trade paperback, 303 pages
Publication: September 30, 2014 by Bell Bridge Books

Source: Personal Library


Even the most powerful tracers can’t track you if the magical trace you leave behind is too old. But I can track almost anything, even dead trace. That makes me a unicorn, the Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny, and the Lock Ness Monster all rolled into one. In a word, I am unique. A very special snowflake. And if anyone ever finds out, I’ll be dead or a slave to one of the Tyet criminal factions.

Riley Hollis has quietly traced kidnapped children and quietly tipped the cops to their whereabouts one too many times. Now she’s on the radar of Detective Clay Price, a cop in the pocket of a powerful magic Tyet faction. When he blackmails her into doing a dangerous trace for him, Riley will have to break every rule that keeps her safe. Or become a Tyet pawn in a deadly, magical war.
I’ve been looking forward to reading Trace of Magic ever since it was published last year but haven’t gotten around to it till now. I’ve read Francis’s Horngate Witches series and loved it. The last book in the Horngate Witches series wasn’t as good compared to the first 3 books but overall it’s still one of my favorite Urban Fantasy series I’ve ever read. When I heard Francis was going to start a new series I was ecstatic! The cover and synopsis looked and sounded really promising.

It pains me to say this but Trace of Magic was disappointing. It didn’t live up to my expectations and I had high expectations coming from her previous novels. Trace of Magic is labeled as an Urban Fantasy but it’s really a Paranormal Romance. The plot, world building and characterization took a backseat and the romance aspect was full on blast. I’ll talk about the characters and romance in a second. The world building was a bit confusing, there are 5 gangster-type guys ruling Diamond City and there are certain people with special abilities but readers don’t really learn much of either. The information and details of the world is almost nonexistent. Our main heroine Riley is a tracer. She has the ability to locate anyone, anywhere and see whether or not they’re dead or alive because every individual leaves a distinct color track/thread in their wake. Riley’s ability is very interesting, and the first book seems to only scratch the surface of it. But instead of actually learning about Riley herself, readers are thrust into an investigation looking for Riley’s sister’s ex-fiancée and a mysterious rich woman connected to Tourey, a Tyet gangster.

I did not like Riley. Riley rubbed me the wrong way right from the beginning. She’s snarky but not in the funny way. She’s cocky and annoying as hell. But it got worst once she teamed up with Detective Clay Price. For the entire book she was getting all hot and bothered by Price and would internally reprimand herself for lusting after him because he’s supposed to be the enemy. Yet, the moment they weren’t being chased and shot at…they had time to have sex (right after waking up from being shot at). Riley also had a problem assuming things left and right and she would talk about hypothetical situations where Price would betray her...but he never does. It drove me nuts! I wished I could reach inside the book and shake her for her idiocy! And the biggest annoyance of all…Riley and Price thought they were in ‘LOVE’ with each other after only 48 hours! Are you kidding me?! That’s worst than reading insta-love in YA. I also never warmed up to Price. Price was described as an asshole from the beginning, which wouldn’t be a problem if he had any redeeming qualities. I seriously can't think of any. But now that I think about, yeah, he was an ass for most of the book. Riley and Price are probably the least likable couple/leads I’ve read to date. I really despise them.

I’m still in disbelief that this is by the same author as my beloved Horngate Witches series. I mean, The Horngate Witches series feels like a seasoned author wrote it, while Trace of Magic felt like it was written by a newbie. The plot is weak, the world building lackluster and the characters flat and unlikable. If you haven’t read Francis’s books yet, I’d suggest skipping this book and checking out her Horngate Witches series…it’s much better.

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

Title: The Night Circus
Author: Erin Morgenstern 
Genre: Fantasy
Series: Standalone 

Hardcover, 387 pages
Publication: September 13, 2011 by Doubleday

Source: personal library 


The circus arrives without warning. No announcements precede it. It is simply there, when yesterday it was not. Within the black-and-white striped canvas tents is an utterly unique experience full of breathtaking amazements. It is called Le Cirque des Rêves, and it is only open at night.

But behind the scenes, a fierce competition is underway: a duel between two young magicians, Celia and Marco, who have been trained since childhood expressly for this purpose by their mercurial instructors. Unbeknownst to them both, this is a game in which only one can be left standing. Despite the high stakes, Celia and Marco soon tumble headfirst into love, setting off a domino effect of dangerous consequences, and leaving the lives of everyone, from the performers to the patrons, hanging in the balance.
I heard nothing but raves about The Night Circus upon its publication in 2011 and still occasionally do till this day. I ended up buying myself a copy just last year but haven’t gotten around to reading it till now. I finally see why so many people loved it; it felt like a very sophisticated fantasy with beautifully written prose. The Night Circus is all about magicians, a circus and the performers’ lives that get mixed up in the deadly competition…who wouldn’t be intrigued?

The Night Circus is centered on Celia and Marco, two talented magicians pitted against each other in a much obscured arena with even vaguer rules and purposes. The book spans years as readers see how Celia and Marco are groomed and taught in two completely different styles of magic by their mentors. Celia’s instructor is none other than her father, The Great Prospero who teaches Celia visually, hands on and through vigorous practices. While Marco on the other hand, is plucked from an orphanage by the enigmatic Mr. A H who stresses the importance of studying magic through books. The two become implicitly bound at an early age but don’t meet until they come face to face at ‘Le Cirque des Reves’.

I enjoyed The Night Circus very much, more than I thought I would. The attendees of The Night Circus had a few words to describe it from: enchanting, magical, enthralling and like a dream…and all these words perfectly described my experience reading Morgenstern’s debut. Her writing had that gripping quality that made you get swept up into the story and forget about the real world. There were moments that I literally lost track of time since I was so wrapped up in Celia and Marco and the other wonderful characters that made up the circus like Chandresh, the Burgess twins, Friedrick, and Bailey to name a few. My favorite part of the book was the description of the circus itself. The circus is made up of various sized tents. Each tent housed a special attraction or a performer…there are so many tents that even if an attendee came 3-4 times they still wouldn’t have gone to every tent! 

My only complaint is the unrealistic romance. I don’t want to say too much, but while the characters knew each other for years, I didn’t think they spent enough time with each other to actually build a real connection. I never felt the chemistry between the two, and every interaction they had felt forced. Thankfully, the romance was always in the background and was so subtle that it didn't take away from the overall story (it is said that the circus and the tents were seen as a love letters to one another but again, I didn't really see it as that).

Overall, The Night Circus was a solid and enjoyable read. Like many reviewers stated, The Night Circus is a slow paced book, with the occasional flashbacks and jumps in different narratives… but I still think it’s a book that everyone should read at least once in their life. The writing style alone is fresh and unique and the world building and characters are complex and fully developed. This book is a book for all readers. It won’t matter if you like/or don’t like fantasy or history… If you’re a reader, you’ll appreciate it. Period. I highly recommend The Night Circus and believe its worth checking out. 

Sunday, July 05, 2015

Bitter Spirits by Jenn Bennett

Title: Bitter Spirits
Author: Jenn Bennett
Genre: Paranormal Romance
Series: Roaring Twenties #1

Mass Market Paperback, 328 pages
Publication: January 7, 2014 by Berkley Sensation

Source: Personal library.


It’s the roaring twenties, and San Francisco is a hotbed of illegal boozing, raw lust, and black magic. The fog-covered Bay Area can be an intoxicating scene, particularly when you specialize in spirits…
Aida Palmer performs a spirit medium show onstage at Chinatown’s illustrious Gris-Gris speakeasy. However, her ability to summon (and expel) the dead is more than just an act.

Winter Magnusson is a notorious bootlegger who’s more comfortable with guns than ghosts—unfortunately for him, he’s the recent target of a malevolent hex that renders him a magnet for hauntings. After Aida’s supernatural assistance is enlisted to banish the ghosts, her spirit-chilled aura heats up as the charming bootlegger casts a different sort of spell on her.On the hunt for the curseworker responsible for the hex, Aida and Winter become drunk on passion. And the closer they become, the more they realize they have ghosts of their own to exorcise…
Firstly, it must be said that I am a big fan of Bennett’s Arcadia Bell series and the author herself…she’s one of the kindest and sweetest authors I know. I was excited when I first heard that Bennett was writing a new series; a series set in the 1920’s and with ghosts! Everything sounded very promising. Bennett once again sets her new series in the familiar stomping ground of San Francisco, following Aida a spirit medium and Winter, a bootlegger.

I’m starting to think that paranormal romance (ones with changing characters/plots)aren’t for me. I’ve read a lot of paranormal romance in the past and only one series comes to mind that I absolutely loved from start to finish. But this is Benett we’re talking about; if her name is on it…I’m going to read it. That being said, it really pains me to say this but I didn’t enjoy this as much as I enjoyed reading the first Arcadia book/series (also by Bennett). The writing is excellent of course and yes, I was engaged most of the time but it didn’t have the same spark as her other series. Bitter Spirits is set in the 1920 era but I never got that vibe or enough descriptions to paint the picture of a 1920’s San Francisco. Winter, our male lead is hexed by black magic, which turns him into a walking magnet for ghosts. The predicament Winter finds himself in leads him to spiritualist Aida, who has the ability to banish specters. And off goes the sexual fireworks. The sexual tension, in my opinion is seriously overboard. I can’t think of a single scene, where the character weren’t picturing each other naked or having improper thoughts. It was too much for me, and took away from the story. But if I’m being honest, there wasn’t much of a story to begin with, since the book focuses only on the main characters. And I’m all for character driven novels, but even so, I didn’t connect or empathize with these characters all that much.

I like Winter, he’s your usual flair of an alpha male hero...I can’t think of anything negative to say about him. As for Aida, I liked her in the beginning. She started off as a strong and independent business woman but once she started working for/with Winter…it was like she got bit by the nasty jealous bug. Okay, I know it’s normal to be jealous at times in a relationship…its human nature. But the scene where Winter and Aida visits Ju and meets Ju’s woman, Aida learned a whole lot about Winter’s past and got all annoyed and jealous. That really bugged me. She got mad that Winter didn’t tell her about his past involvement with Ju’s lady. Like really, Aida? Realistically, why would he?! They’re not together and he’s only known her for a couple of weeks. Not everyone bares all their secrets to strangers! The more I read about Aida, the more I disliked her. But there were other characters that shined. Surprisingly though, the two characters I found most intriguing weren’t the leads but the minor characters Bo and Astrid. They both made brief appearances, Astrid had just a handful of scenes but it was enough to make them memorable.

Bitter Spirits was an okay-good read. The world building and plot isn’t strong which is quite a shock for me coming from Bennett other series, and the characters not as personable as I like. I didn’t like this book nor did I hate it. Bitter Spirits had its moments; there were some scenes I enjoyed and others not so much. This is probably a 2 1/2 star book, but I can't give the author anything less than 3 stars because it was well-written...just, everything I usually love about her characters/world building, I got less of. Does that make sense? I still have the other two books in my TBR pile, debating if I should continue with the series or not. Who knows, maybe I’ll enjoy the other leads more. I am curious about Bo and Astrid’s story. We’ll see.